The UK has recovered the F-35 stealth fighter that crashed off an aircraft carrier into the sea

The UK has recovered the F-35 stealth fighter that crashed off an aircraft carrier into the sea
An F-35B launches from HMS Queen Elizabeth, June 18, 2021.Royal Navy/LPhot Unaisi Luke
  • The F-35 that crashed off a British aircraft carrier last month has been recovered.
  • A British pilot had to bail out during a takeoff emergency, ditching the plane in the Mediterranean.

The F-35 stealth fighter that a British carrier pilot was forced to ditch in the Mediterranean last month has been recovered, the British Defense Ministry said Wednesday.

"Operations to recover the UK F-35 jet in the Mediterranean Sea have successfully concluded," the ministry said. "We extend our thanks to our NATO allies Italy and the United States of America for their support during the recovery operation."

In mid-November, a pilot with the 617 (Dambusters) Squadron deployed aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth had to bail out of an F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter due to an emergency.

Toward the end of last month, a video surfaced online that appeared to show the the fifth-generation aircraft slipping off the aircraft carrier's ski jump and crashing into the sea during a takeoff mishap.

The above twitter user, a defense commentator, told Insider's Azmi Haroun that the video was sourced from a Royal Navy WhatsApp group, adding that the footage appeared to be from the Queen Elizabeth's visual surveillance system.


The UK Defense Journal, citing an unnamed source, reported Tuesday that a service member aboard the carrier has been arrested for the video leak.

The British newspaper The Sun first reported the successful recovery, reporting that a defense source said it took two weeks to find the wrecked fighter and another few weeks to pull the plane out of the sea.

Officials told the outlet that "there is no danger or compromise to sensitive equipment on the aircraft."

The Sun reported that senior military leaders had expressed concern that the aircraft's sensitive technology could fall into the hands of the Russians if not properly recovered.

Similar concerns were raised when a Japanese Air Self-Defense Force F-35A flying out of Misawa Air Base disappeared from radar in 2019. The remains of the pilot, Maj. Akinori Hosomi, and some debris were recovered, but the bulk of the aircraft was not.


The British F-35 mishap, which was reportedly caused by a rain cover getting sucked into the engine, is only the fifth known F-35 crash.

With the loss of the aircraft, the UK has only 23 F-35Bs. Twenty-one aircraft had been delivered, and three are still in the US for testing and evaluation. Eight British F-35s were deployed aboard the Queen Elizabeth alongside 10 F-35Bs flown by US Marine Corps pilots.